Sleet or snow, Vehicle Management keeps the B-1 mission on the go

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class James L. Miller
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of four articles on the 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron here at Ellsworth.

Whether it’s a dead battery, flat tire or leaking fluids, when a government vehicle has problems, the Airmen at the 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle management flight are there to help.

It doesn’t matter if it is Spring or Winter, vehicle management keeps Ellsworth's fleet of more than 560 vehicles mission ready at all times.

Senior Airman James Neal, mobile maintenance team lead assigned to the 28th LRS, is one of the Airmen who makes sure vehicles are repaired wherever they may break down. The mobile maintenance section is operated 24 hours a day to ensure rapid response to fix vehicles and prevent any hindrance to the mission.

“If we got a call after duty hours, and we did not go out to fix the vehicle right away, it could sit there for up to a day before it can be towed,” Neal said. “Most of the time I can have it fixed within 30 minutes to an hour, which saves time, manpower and money.”

During the winter, the most common problem is a dead battery that needs a jump-start as the weather tends to enhance any problems vehicles might already have, Neal explained.

Vehicles that don’t break down and have scheduled maintenance will be brought to the general purpose repairs section.

“If it has wheels, or rolls, we fix it and maintain it,” said Staff Sgt. Troy Silbermann, non-commissioned officer in-charge of light vehicle and equipment maintenance assigned to the 28th LRS. “If we didn’t maintain the vehicles like the fire engines or police cruisers the base couldn’t function, and planes wouldn’t fly.”

Airman 1st Class Brandon Halloway, a special vehicle maintenance technician assigned to the 28th LRS, is responsible for fire engine repairs.

“It is pretty awesome being able to work on something that has the potential to save lives,” Halloway said. “Learning all the capabilities and seeing them in action is a pretty cool experience, but it’s also more important than people think. If you don’t have emergency services like the fire department, the B-1’s can’t take off, so our job has a pretty important role in the base’s mission.”

The heavy equipment section of vehicle management is vital to the mission. Every winter the Airmen ensure all the snow plows are ready to keep the roads clear and safe for base personnel.

Although most of the work is done behind the scenes or under a vehicle, the customer service section is the face of vehicle management. They are responsible for being the conduit between technician and customer to ensure the customers’ needs are met in a timely and efficient manner.

With all the different vehicles and repairs needed, vehicle management goes through a lot of parts, and therefore, rely on the material management section to acquire the best parts for the best prices.

“We buy all the parts we can locally, which saves time and money,” said Airman 1st Class Maegan Sandy, a fleet management and analysis apprentice assigned to the 28th LRS. “We order the parts as soon as they are requested, because if a refueling vehicle can’t run, jets do not get fuel and if jets can’t fly, the mission stops.”

The heartbeat of the vehicle management shop is the fleet management and analysis section. From mission-capable rates and ordering office materials to logging work orders and reporting accident and abuse cases, the FM&A section is key to providing the oversight that puts all the pieces of the shop together.

“Working in there [FM&A] really puts into perspective the huge impact we have on the base,” Sandy said. “I don’t think there is a single squadron on base that doesn’t deal with us at some point.”

The base impact made by vehicle management may seem even more extraordinary with almost 10 times as many vehicles as technicians, and a remarkable mission-capable rating of 96.7 percent.

“I am thankful for working with such knowledgeable and hardworking Airmen, they have the highest mission-capable rating out of any base I have ever been to,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Bryant, vehicle management superintendent assigned to the 28th LRS. “It is pretty incredible having such a high MC rating when some of the vehicles are older than the technicians working on them.”

With all the pieces of vehicle maintenance working together, they keep the rubber on the road and the planes in the sky, no matter the weather.